Led by the likes of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, the rest of the newspaper industry is gradually attempting an experiment to charge readers for stuff it’s always given away for free. Newspaper giant Gannett revealed that it’s sticking 80 of its community newspapers’ websites behind pay walls. USA Today web content will remain free for now.
Forbes reports the Gannett papers will loosely follow the Times model, letting users view between five and 15 articles for free each month before cutting them off and telling them to pay up. Gannett is betting that the move will make it $100 million more in subscription revenue per year.
Papers that move to the pay wall model are assuming enough freeloaders will start paying up to offset losses in readership that will sting advertising revenue. The move increases the pressure on overworked staffs that have been gutted through years of downsizing, but also allows the potential for papers to reap more revenue that they can reinvest, ideally upping their staffs back up to healthier levels. As a fan of newspapers — in no small part due to the fact that I work a day job at one of them — I sure hope executives know what they’re doing here.